From a Tree Limb
By Sean Karns
Outside my house, a gutted buck dangles
from a tree limb. Two men pull the buck’s hide
like tugging on a bell rope in a tower.
Their children swing on the swing set.
I’ve never seen a deer slaughtered,
never seen many things slaughtered.
I once saw my father gut a squirrel.
Doesn’t smell right, he said. He put the squirrel
an inch away from my face.
Sniff it, he said. I smelled it, sucked in the odor
like my last breath and shrugged my shoulders
not knowing what I was sniffing for.
He dug a hole in the yard.
You got to dig the hole deep enough,
he said. So the dogs can’t smell it and dig it up.
I wonder where the heart is,
where the spleen is,
if the men will leave the buck
disemboweled in two locations.
I press my face to the screen door.
A child pets the hide splayed over
the laundry line, the other watches
the hacking off of hooves.
“From a Tree Limb” first appeared in Pleiades and is in Jar of Pennies.
About the Author: Sean Karns has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Illinois and a BA from The Ohio State University. He is the author of a collection of poetry, Jar of Pennies, and his poetry has appeared in the Birmingham Poetry Review, Hobart, Rattle, Pleiades, Los Angeles Review, Cold Mountain Review, Folio, and elsewhere; and his poetry has been anthologized in New Poetry from the Midwest. He is currently the poetry editor at Mayday Magazine.